Workstation Advice for Professional Photographer

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Airjarhead, Jul 19, 2014.

  1. Airjarhead macrumors newbie

    Airjarhead

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Location:
    TX
    #1
    My wife is a professional photographer that has a 2009 Mac Pro 4,1 that I have upgraded along the way:
    Quad 2.66GHz
    24GB (8x3) 1066 Ram
    500GB SSD (in a normal drive bay-not PCI-E)
    60GB SSD Scratch Disk
    Geforce GTX 560Ti 448 core
    She uses Aperture (soon to find a replacement), Photoshop CS6, and Capture One. She may start doing small video clips, but I think we can just use iMovie to edit.
    She wants a second workstation, and she has a $3500 budget...SO...my question is:
    Should she get an old tricked out Mac Pro Tower, Loaded iMac, or nMP?
    Options:
    1) Old Mac Pro tower(will cost <$3k):
    Hex 3.46GHz
    48GB 1333 Ram
    500GB on PCI-E card
    USB 3.0 card
    GTX 680 or 7950
    2) iMac:
    Quad 3.5 i7
    32GB 1600 Ram
    1TB Flash
    GTX 780m
    3) nMP:
    Quad 3.7GHz
    16GB 1866 Ram
    512GB Flash
    D300

    I have scoured the internet to answer these questions. However, it is EXTREMELY difficult to find comparisons using the hardware and software mentioned above.
    The comparisons I have found leave me baffled. I've seen the iMac best both of the Mac Pro's in some benchmarks. I've seen the GTX 780m (a mobile GPU) score better than the Radeon 7950 and D300's (desktop GPUs) in other benchmarks. It is so frustrating. I can only imagine that those are due to poor drivers for the 7950 and lack of product support for dual GPUs. I could understand this given Apple's obvious neglect for the Mac Pro tower.

    http://macperformanceguide.com/MacPro2013-performance-graphs.html
    http://www.barefeats.com/tube19.html
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7603/mac-pro-review-late-2013/7

    Has anyone had a system close to 1 and/or 2 above and switched to a nMP? If so, is there a dramatic speed difference?
    I'm tempted to go with the old tower MP, but I also don't want her to spend so much money on a dying breed.

    Thank you for your time.
     
  2. egy195 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    #2
    i'm not a professional but if it was me i'd go with the old mac pro, you can use 4 hard drives and expand the memory easily and change the graphics card whenever you want.
     
  3. zarf2007 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Location:
    London, UK
    #3
    I think the best bet would be fully loaded iMac with an if necessary external TB or USB3 storage. The old Mac Pro is too legacy (sata 2/USB 2 ok you can get addons but they are a hassle) and the nMP isn't worth money quad core form, you would need at least the six core to make a difference.
     
  4. Airjarhead thread starter macrumors newbie

    Airjarhead

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    Jul 1, 2012
    Location:
    TX
    #4
    Thank you both for the replies.
    If anyone has any experience with these or similar configurations, I would love to read about your experience.
     
  5. Airjarhead thread starter macrumors newbie

    Airjarhead

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    Jul 1, 2012
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    TX
    #5
  6. sirio76 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2013
    #6
    That's the point.. go for the new one.
     
  7. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #7
    Yeah, that's my experience in upgrading from a 2009 to a nMP.

    Of course I've never used an iMac so I can't comment on that. However, I think it's fairly well established that the latest top-of-the-line quad core iMac offers very similar performance to the entry-level nMP for most tasks. The key differences being the integrated display in the iMac vs the possibility to run many displays on the nMP (and, of course, the dual GPUs which are less relevant for a photographer). If your budget is limited and you need a new display, the iMac is a no brainer.
     
  8. Airjarhead thread starter macrumors newbie

    Airjarhead

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Location:
    TX
    #8
    Thanks for the response, and thanks again for the in-depth review.
     
  9. iBug2 macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2005
    #9
    Get the iMac or the new Mac Pro. Both will be fine. Don't buy an old Mac Pro.
     
  10. Airjarhead thread starter macrumors newbie

    Airjarhead

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    Jul 1, 2012
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    TX
  11. phrehdd, Jul 20, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2014

    phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #11
    Given that the old Mac Pro really can't be fitted with Thunderbolt, you have to decide how important that is to you. As well, consider what it might take to get USB3 or eSATA for external drives (that may come in handy more than you know).

    For Photoshop, if one is serious, they wouldn't bother using the iMac screen but opt for a proper graphics monitor. This doesn't mean one can't use an iMac but rather use the iMac screen for all but the actual work within Photoshop (maybe put the palettes on the iMac screen). The iMac is not a bad choice and does offer Thunderbolt and USB3. This makes it very handy for external enclosures.

    This is (for me) what helps me determine what is a good fit -

    Graphics within the computer - Does CS6 really exploit the video chipset? CS6 and the new Photoshop handle graphics (from what I recall) differently where video cards are concerned. This is the old story Nvidia vs ATI. You may want to research this.

    RAM - If both Photoshop and some video editing is involved, consider what options you have for RAM and if the apps other than Photoshop also can exploit more RAM.

    CPU power - This always gets people into trouble as they think more cores is better. Tests have shown that for various apps, beyond 8 core doesn't always work to be the fastest in processing and then again, some don't even really exploit beyond 4 core etc. Research what is the best fit for the video edits as Photoshop does well with 6 and 8 core.

    An iMac, new Mac Pro and older Mac Pro hex can certainly handle Photoshop well enough if properly set up with the right set up and other devices. For what you stated, the old Mac Pro is not a bad choice given the access to 4 internal drives, ability to add 3rd party USB3 cards and eSATA if needed. I admit I am not a huge fan of the iMac but again, set up properly it certainly is a reasonable choice. As for the new Mac Pro, when you consider what else is required to get that set up going, it become exceptionally expensive on the wallet.

    I do Photoshop regularly and because my files are relatively small, I can get away with (for now) a Mac Mini with SSD and 16 gigs of RAM. I also use Capture One Pro. My set up most likely would be bare minimum and I think the more loaded old Mac Pro or iMac would provide less bottlenecks for pro work with larger files.

    In short - decide on how much RAM really would be ideal, investigate if you want Photoshop to exploit video hardware, connectivity to various drives and last - CPU exploitation of cores with your apps.

    I'll just put this out there though it will get jeered - other than a preference for OSX, there is no real reason to get a Mac for photo work. While it pains me, I'll say that one can get a really excellent system going on a PC with Windows 7 that comes in far more affordable (sans of course, Thunderbolt).

    Just more peanuts from the gallery.
     
  12. AppleDroid macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2011
    Location:
    Illinois
    #12
    As someone who has regularly upgraded their 4,1 Quad with an SSD, 24GB RAM, internal RAID and a GTX285 I'm ready to jump to a newer machine. I even added a KT4004 USB 3 card which is nice but ejects half my peripherals attached to it so it's not the best solution especially for external backup drives.

    Plus with a nMP you gain native USB 3, TB2, PCIE SSD and a much more power efficient machine. Even if I wanted to toss a used w3680 my drives are stuck at SATAII and I don't trust this USB 3 card enough as a normal backup pipe.

    Now I'm just saving up for the 6c nMP and plan to pick one up or if too much times lapses wait for the first revision.
     
  13. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #13
    I agreed with most of what you had to say, but unfortunately you added the last paragraph so I'm here to jeer... :D

    "other than a preference for OSX" aka... "other than a preference for spending more time doing work and less time pissing around trying to get your OS running optimally"... surprise... you can get a PC for less. :rolleyes:

    ----------

    Couldn't agree more... as you may have seen from my experience (link in post #5)... it's a pretty big boost in performance.
     
  14. Airjarhead thread starter macrumors newbie

    Airjarhead

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Location:
    TX
    #14
    Thanks to all for your insight, and again to Virtual Rain for his Aperture and Photoshop benchmarks.
    This may be a long route to a happy ending, but I'll explain for those that may be in the same situation...
    I'd like to address the PC comments. I agree that I could build a higher performing PC at a MUCH lower cost (I've been doing it for a decade). However, you can't run Aperture on a PC, and she is far too used to OSX to change.

    I too have had MANY frustrating experiences with the Mac Pro tower. I tried a Radeon 6850, and then a 6870 upgrade for the original 4870. These were supposed to be plug and play and guaranteed to work. Neither of them did. I also tried 5 different USB 3.0 cards that were all supposed to work before I found one that worked reliably. I have always been disappointed with the performance of her Mac Pro. After upgrading her ram from 4x2GB to 3x8GB, after upgrading to a better video card, and after the inhalation of 2 different SSD's. Yet, I was still willing to get the one I mentioned above because of the price.

    As for the iMac: Phrehdd and VirtualRain both mentioned the display. While sexy and nice to look at from a consumer standpoint, it is a downgrade for a Pro Photographer that needs to edit and retouch. My wife and I discussed this, and since she plans to buy a 10bit panel in the future, we added this to the minus column on our list. Another negative is the lack of upgradability. About the only thing you can easily upgrade is the ram (and add external solutions), and that can only be upgraded to 32GB.

    So, my wife and I had a long discussion. I showed her the Excel spreadsheet I put together comparing all of the benchmarks I could find on the three systems for the software she uses. Then I showed her the benchmarks that Virtual Rain posted for Aperture and Photoshop. This convinced her to up her budget...
    She just made the purchase for:
    nMP 6 Core, 16GB, 512GB Flash, and D500's.
    We also bought 32GB (2x16) of the Crucial Ram from Newegg, and a Thunderbay 4 from OWC.
    Hopefully, her IT guy (yours truly) will have new toys to put together later this week.
    Thanks Again!
     
  15. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #15
    Great stuff! Glad I could help you spend a bunch of extra money :D. She won't be disappointed though... it's a great config for photo work.
     
  16. goMac macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2004
    #16
    Buy a large external storage box, and then whatever computer makes sense from there.

    Buying an oMP just for the hard drive bays is a waste. Buying an external box for a bunch of drives will save you money in the long run, and let you be more flexible on what you use in the future. You'd even be freed up to buy a laptop + monitor combo if you wanted.

    The Mac Pro GPUs aren't slower because of Apple driver neglect. They're just slower hardware period.
     
  17. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #17
    Airjar - I am glad you came up with a purchase that you feel will fit your wife's needs. If I were to get the nMP, most likely would be very similar in build with the expectation that I would be adding external devices (same ummm negative you get with the iMac).

    Hope she uses her new system well and glad she is opting for a good graphics monitor. I happen to use the NEC PA series and it has served me extremely well.
     
  18. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2010
    #18
    I've got the 6 core nMP with D700's and I dare say that it's overkill for Lightroom and Photoshop, but I plan to keep it for a few years to I'd rather over spec the GPU's. I use it for a lot of VMware too, so the 6-core is perfect for this.

    I would say for her use a quad-core with D700's would be brilliant. Buy additional memory from Crucial (or somewhere similar) as it's a lot cheaper, and get at least the 512GB SSD. Also if you have the budget for it the Promise Pegasus 2 R4 is an excellent storage array. It's not cheap (£1,200), but for professional stuff it's not expensive either (in my opinion) unless you are comparing it to USB disk, which is not a reasonable comparison. I keep my photo's on the Pegasus and the Lightroom library on the SSD. It works very well. I have a catalogue of around 25,000 photo's and it's very responsive.
     
  19. dmax35 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2012
    #19
    I have the same system except with 32GB running Capture Pro 7.2.3 and it's been a solid performer. C1 takes advantage of the GPU engine unlike LR.

     
  20. Airjarhead thread starter macrumors newbie

    Airjarhead

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Location:
    TX
    #20
    Thanks again to all. You have been very helpful. I now wish I had asked for advice sooner!

    Thanks dmax. I've read that C1 is the best out of Aperture, Lightroom, and PS for taking advantage of the latest hardware (uses more cores, more GPU accel, etc.). Since Aperture will not be updated, she is considering switching to C1 since she already has it installed.

    ----------

    Thanks phrehdd. One of the photographers she shares a studio also has an NEC PA panel. She is considering one as well as this Asus one:
    http://www.amazon.com/ASUS-PA279Q-27-Inch-Screen-Monitor/dp/B00DX64DBU/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
     
  21. Killerbob macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2008
    #21
    She will love that machine. I went for the slightly bigger version (64GB RAM, 1TB Flash, and the D700s), and it is a HUGE improvement over my otherwise beefy MP3,1 (32GB RAM, 1TB Accelsior, GTX680).

    I it really a lovely machine, and I went ahead and got the Sonnet Echo Express box, which houses PCIe cards (the Accelsior and a Tempo Pro w. SSDs) and uses TB2 to connect to the nMP. LOVE IT:) Yes it is overkill for some things, but it will go the distance, and the more I use my nMP, the more sophisticated my usage pattern becomes...

    ----------

    I don't think it is that much overkill. With a 25-50K library, 60MB RAW files, PS with multiple layer editing, PhotoMatix HDR work, etc., a 6-core D700 nMP is actually stretched at times. Especially if you add the multitasking workflow we all have adopted by now. I am easily doing all of these things, whilst on the Web, have Outlook running, maybe a Parallels WM, and so forth, and the nMP cuts through that load like knife through butter:) It is truly a marvelous piece of machinery...
     

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